Exxon Mobil CEO Sees 'Rich' Exploration Opportunities

Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the company expects it will spend about $20 billion annually through the end of the decade to develop oil and natural gas projects.

In an interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, Tillerson said Exxon Mobil has "a rich inventory of opportunities."

"It is very broad-based, very global in its character," he said, speaking about projects in oil-rich areas such as Libya, Qatar, and the Caspian Sea.

A second installment of the interview will be shown on CNBC at 4 pm New York time.

At an analyst meeting earlier, the Irving, Texas, oil giant said it planned to start 25 new global projects in the next three years, adding about one million barrels of oil equivalent a day to its base volumes when they reach their peak.

The company said its project inventory at the end of 2006 has the potential to develop billions of barrels.

"Market and geopolitical forces continue to shape the environment in which we operate," Tillerson told analysts during a presentation at the New York Stock Exchange earlier in the day. "Our view of what it takes to be successful in this industry has not changed. It requires consistency, integrity, discipline, reliability and ingenuity."

Tillerson touted the company's return on investment, noting Exxon Mobil led the industry in 2006 with return on capital employed of 32%, 50% higher than its competitors.

Last month, Exxon Mobil posted the largest annual profit by a U.S. company -- $39.5 billion -- although its earnings for the last quarter of 2006 declined 4%.

The record annual earnings followed a year of extraordinarily high energy prices as crude oil topped $78 a barrel in the summer -- driving up average gasoline prices in the United States to more than $3 a gallon. Prices retreated later in the year.

The fourth-quarter decline reflected lower profits from Exxon's refining and marketing operations and a sharp dropoff in natural gas prices.

Exxon Mobil Senior Vice President Stuart McGill said the company plans to start production at seven new projects in 2007 that will add about 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day to the company's base volumes.

The projects the company plans to bring on line this year include four projects in Europe, two projects in Angola, and a liquefied natural gas unit at its RasGas project in Qatar.

It plans to startup 18 additional projects over the course of 2008 and 2009, including the company's Thunder Horse joint venture with BP, several projects in Qatar and West Africa, and three LNG terminals.

The company also said it has more than 30 other major projects it plans to start up in 2010 or later.